A Winter’s Tale
In Kolkata, we call it “the Week”, the final seven days of the year. It begins on the evening of December 24. After a Christmas Eve dinner, you make your way to church. The showpiece event is of course at St Paul’s Cathedral. Thousands get to church by 11 p. m. At least a third of them are Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs and Parsis, even curious atheists and agnostics. At 11.30 p. m., carol service begins. In half an hour, it’s the magic moment. From 12 to 1.30 a. m., there’s the church service, part of it lit by nothing more than warm hearts and shimmering candles. People dress in their finest — in suits and saris, bow ties and shawls. For eight years, even Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been attending midnight mass, alternating between Catholic and Protestant observances.
Midnight mass in Kolkata is a tribute to the pluralism of the city and nation. Where else would the festival of a minority be so willingly embraced by the majority and even other minorities? As midnight mass ends and the night descends, we go home to the cheer of “Merry Christmas”. Kolkata keeps its tryst with yet another Burra Din.